Picture: SOWETAN
Picture: SOWETAN

SALES of new vehicles grew solidly last month, figures released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) showed on Tuesday.

The figures came as the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) announced that its trading arm, Silver Vanity Group Holdings, along with African Vehicle Manufacturers, had signed a deal to become the sole importer and assembler of Jiangsu Joylong minibus taxis.

Nafcoc said an assembly plant would be built in the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone. Jiangsu Joylong manufactures a minibus taxi similar in appearance to the Toyota Ses’fikile.

Naamsa described growth in the industry as "a relatively solid performance compared to the corresponding month last year".

However, the association said continued buoyancy in the vehicle market suggested that while consumers continued to take advantage of strong competition in the market, it also suggested consumers could see price rises in the new year as a result of the weak rand.

"In the event, November, 2012 aggregate industry domestic sales had improved by 3, 636 units or 7.3% to 53, 134 from 49,498 units in November last year," Naamsa said.

Chris de Kock, head of sales and marketing at Wesbank, said the "low vehicle inflation environment over the last three years is coming to an end".

"Prices have already started to increase, as evidenced by WesBank book data showing the average transaction value of new car purchases increased last month by 3.25% on average to R222,000," Mr de Kock said.

"In addition, the ongoing incentives currently being provided by motor vehicle manufacturers to entice new buyers, such as discounts and trade-in incentives, continue to be attractive to prospective purchasers," he said.

Mike Whitfield, MD of Nissan South Africa, said on Tuesday that the market had seen growth only in the entry level segment of the market, and that he expected next year’s market to be "flat" unless such incentives continued to be offered.

Sydney Soundy, head of Absa’s vehicle and asset finance unit, said the month had largely been "in line with expectations".

He said any effects from strike-related activity on heavy vehicles would "only be felt next year", as lead times on the heavy vehicles were "quite long".

Notable performers in the market were Toyota’s entry level Etios, which sold more than 2,100 units and the newly introduced bakkie-based SUV from Chevrolet, the Trailblazer, which sold 367 units.

The market’s top sellers remained the Toyota Hilux (3,100) and the Volkswagen Polo (2,376) and Polo Vivo (2,697).

Car exports from South Africa also soared nearly 40%, Naamsa reported.

"Exports … during November 2012 at 28,541 vehicles had registered an impressive increase of 8,088 units or 39,5% compared to the 20,453 vehicles exported in November last year," it said.

"The momentum of vehicle exports was expected to improve in 2013 as various export programmes were ramped up and exports of light commercial vehicles expected to increase substantially," Naamsa said.